Should You Let Your Motorcycle Warm Up Before Riding?

Motorcycle Insurance Tip!
Save on Motorcycle Insurance in Five Minutes
  • Insurance costs are on the rise.
  • Don't let your rates go up.
  • Compare rates to save big!
Compare Rates Now Motorcycle Image

One of the most common motorcycle abuses that takes place is incorrectly warming up the engine. Most everyone does it, but often times is it done incorrectly.

A properly warmed engine is crucial to having a motorcycle last. Motorcycles are becoming a little more complicated as newer ones are produced which in turn means warming up a motorcycle is that much more important. When we take the time to properly warm up our motorcycles, we are allowing our engine to operate in the way it was designed to, and in return you will have a much healthier motorcycle for years to come.

Should you let your motorcycle warm up before riding it? It is crucial that you let your motorcycle warm up before riding it as it will have a profound effect on the performance and safety. There are a lot of seals and rings inside the engine that require oil circulating at optimal temperature. Warming up a motorcycle allows that oil to circulate efficiently.

The warm up procedure on motorcycles are just as important to it’s long-term health as changing the oil or inspecting the tires and chain.

Why You Should Let Your Motorcycle Warm Up Before Riding

Cars and motorcycles are very similar in how you are supposed to warm them up, but with both cars and bikes, people don’t know how to properly do it. How have you seen it done in the past? Have you just sat the motorcycle on the kick stand, turn it on and let it sit and idle until the RPM sounds more controlled? Or have you started it and blipped the throttle so that everything on it gets moving?

Don’t be embarrassed if this is what you’ve done to warm up your motorcycle. Incorrectly warming up your motorcycle is more common than you might think!

Before we look at the proper procedure to warm up the bike, lets start with why you should warm up the bike in the first place. As you know, inside of an engine, there are a lot of parts that move around and create heat. The majority of that heat is created by friction, but a lot of that heat is dissipated by oil and coolant.

Motorcycles, just like cars, were designed to move and go. When a motorcycle is moving, you have air running down the sides of it and up and around the engine or through the radiator. As the air moves, it works to cool the engine and prevent unnecessary heat from sitting too long on any particular component.

When a motorcycle isn’t moving, you’re not going to have enough cooling power to keep the engine at a good working temperature (for more information about how a motorcycle engine cools itself, see our other article by clicking here). The same principle should also be applied to the oil in the engine. The oil in the engine isn’t fully flowing around until the motorcycle is moving down the road.

Warming up your motorcycle before riding it means that you will get the oil operating at it’s optimal temperature which, in turn, means the motorcycle will be able to naturally cool itself down much easier while it is in motion. Riding without properly warming it up could mean premature part failure on different components of the bike.

Warming up your motorcycle doesn’t just mean having it turned on. What it really means is making sure that your engine is evenly heated in the way that it was designed to be so it can function properly during a ride.

What Could Happen If You Don’t Warm Up Your Motorcycle?

As I just mentioned, incorrectly warming up your motorcycle can prevent important fluids from circulating properly around the engine. The oil, in particular, needs to be warmed up and cycled through the engine.

When a motorcycle is left on the kick stand, the oil isn’t able to flow correctly around the engine and the cylinders. This can cause excessive heat to build, and this heat can cause some very critical components to wear and become damaged. If the seals and the rings that are inside the engine become warped or damaged, the rider will experience some serious functionality issues, and might even fully ruin their bike.

But what would happen if you simply revved the motor up after you start it, making sure that the kick stand is up and the bike is sitting straight? Once again, not enough oil will have made it through the engine. In this situation, the oil is sitting cold in the bottom of the oil pan. Cold oil doesn’t flow as easy as warm oil does.

As oil heats up it becomes thinner, and is more able to coat the inside of the engine. So when you rev the engine out while the bike’s oil is still cold, you also run the risk of completely ruining the insides of the engine cylinders.

Warming up your motorcycle incorrectly or not at all can have some lasting effects. Incorrectly doing it once or twice won’t damage much at all, but years and years of incorrect starts can cause the bike’s engine to fail earlier than it should.

How To Properly Warm Up Your Motorcycle

Now that we’ve fully outlined the dangers of not doing it correctly, let’s look at how to properly warm up a motorcycle. As I mentioned, we shouldn’t just let our bikes idle for very long, and we shouldn’t just rev the engine out.

To do it correctly, we’ll consider three simple steps that are easy to remember. First, we start the motorcycle upright and let it idle (not on the kickstand). Keep in mind we aren’t just going to let it sit here, so don’t go off to do something else.

The second step is to make sure that your motorcycle is able to recognize and respond to throttle input. Sometimes if we begin to roll the throttle, the bike doesn’t respond, or it doesn’t respond smoothly. If this is the case just give it another minute. What we are looking for is that when we roll on the throttle (very briefly and only to about 2 or 3 thousand rpm), the bike responds well and doesn’t stall. 

The third and final step is that once the motorcycle’s throttle is responding well, go ahead and get your leg over it and get it on the road. Once it’s on the road doesn’t mean that our bike’s fully warmed up, but we’re almost there. When you’re on the road, give your motorcycle some time to warm up before you accelerate hard. Keep the rpm’s low, and be gentle on the throttle as you cruise around.

This is to make sure that the oil and the coolant are able to circulate all around the motorcycle. Hopefully, depending on your weather, this step shouldn’t take long. After a couple of miles, you should start to feel like your motorcycle is all set to be ridden like normal.

Remember that you want your bike to sit and idle for the least amount of time possible, though some time sitting before riding is necessary. All you should give it time to do is warm up so that you can take it into first gear and get on the road without it sputtering and stalling.

One tip I have is that if you live in a neighborhood, maybe take time just to ride around before you go out and hit the higher speed roads. The time it takes to lightly cruise through the neighborhood is about all that you’ll need to get your motorcycle warmed up.

Do Warm Up Times Differ With Outside Temperatures? 

Warming up your motorcycle has everything to do with the temperature of the engine. The process that I outlined should be modified to account for different outside temperatures. There’s no one formula that I have to give you that will show you how long to let your bike idle, but just follow step one and let it idle till you feel that the throttle is giving an honest response and that the bike won’t stall. 

Having trouble getting your motorcycle started and/or warmed up in freezing temperatures? Check out our other article here to learn how to navigate starting your motorcycle in those less than ideal conditions.

Be careful out there and remember the importance of riding a warm motorcycle. Not every ride will you be able to follow these steps, but understand the risks that you take when you don’t fully warm it up properly.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

Recent Posts